The two leaders agreed that the Israeli and Palestinian peoples have suffered enough and that the time has come to advance the peace process via concrete steps.

 PM Olmert meets with PA President Abbas

 

Photo: GPO

(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met yesterday evening (Saturday), 23 December 2006, at his Jerusalem residence, with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas. During the meeting, which was conducted in a good and friendly atmosphere, the two men expressed their willingness to cooperate – as genuine partners – in an effort to advance the peace process between Israel and the PA and to reach a solution of two states living side by side in peace and security, according to the Roadmap.

The two leaders agreed that the Israeli and Palestinian peoples have suffered enough and that the time has come to advance the peace process via concrete steps and to refrain from taking any measures that could predetermine the number of issues that will be resolved in negotiations. The two leaders believe that this meeting was a first step towards rebuilding the sides’ confidence and in establishing a fruitful partnership.

The two leaders emphasized the importance of direct and serious contact between them and decided to meet frequently, thus continuing the ongoing link between them, in order to advance current issues on the agenda.

Prime Minister Olmert expressed his concern over the continued fire of Kassam rockets from the Gaza Strip and said that Israel could not show restraint for long if the violations of the ceasefire continue.

The two leaders agreed to reconsider expanding the ceasefire to the West Bank, in keeping with the February 2005 Sharm e-Sheikh understandings.

They agreed to immediately resume the joint committees, as they were determined prior to Sharm, under the authority of the Palestinian Authority President in order to deal with current issues: Maintaining the cessation of violence, advancing the future transfer of security responsibility over the Palestinian areas, and implementation of the arrangements that were previously agreed upon regarding Palestinian fugitives and deportees.

It was also decided to resume the work of the quadripartite security committee between Israel, the PA (via the Presidential Guard), Egypt and the US, including the deployment of the Presidential Guard along the Philadelphia Corridor and in the northern Gaza Strip.

Prime Minister Olmert told PA President Abbas that he understood his and Palestinian society’s sensitivity on the prisoner issue and said that he would be prepared to release to the PA President after the release of Gilad Shalit. It was also decided to resume the work of the joint community responsible for formulating new arrangements and parameters on the release of Palestinian prisoners. This committee will begin work immediately and will submit its conclusions to the two leaders as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Olmert said that Israel would take immediate and concrete steps in order to ease humanitarian conditions for the Palestinian people. To this end, the Prime Minister decided to transfer a portion of the Palestinian tax funds being held by Israel in order to enable supplies for – and assist in the current operations of – several Palestinian hospitals and in order to deal with the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population. It was agreed that this arrangement would be expanded in the future to deal with additional humanitarian needs.  It was made clear that the funds that would be unfrozen would not be transferred to the PA.

The two men also agreed to make a genuine effort to upgrade the crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel in order to facilitate better passage for goods and people. To this end, it was decided to improve security checks at these crossings in order to reach a target of 400 trucks a day between the Gaza Strip and Israel and to promote the possibilities of trade between the Gaza Strip, the west Bank and Israel. The two leaders said that they intended to resume the work of the joint economic committee. Prime Minister Olmert told PA President Abbas that in coordination with Defense Minister Amir Peretz, he had instructed the IDF to remove several checkpoints and to submit a plan for the removal of additional checkpoints in the West Bank in order to facilitate easier passage for the Palestinian population that is not engaged in terrorism.